One with nature

Huntsville State Park is a great getaway for the day or weekend

Huntsville State Park is an easy weekend getaway. Texas Parks and Wildlife

Houston is a world-class city. We have a burgeoning arts scene, a food culture that surpasses almost every other city in the United States, and neighborhoods that are finally becoming walkable. One thing we don’t have, however, is accessible outdoor activities.

When I moved back to Houston from San Marcos, I never thought about how no longer being a bike ride away from the river would affect me. I can't take a walk that ends with me being completely secluded in a bunch of trees while also somehow still being in a city with a population of 60,000. That’s what I miss most about the Hill Country. Natural beauty. 

I want my daughter to appreciate nature, and the serenity that just getting away from the city can provide. I made it my personal quest to try to get her to every park in Houston. There are, like, 500 parks — and some of them are just green spaces — but we do it. Every weekend, we get on the train and go to Discovery Green, Hermann Park, Emancipation Park. You name it, if it’s in the city we’ve tried to go.

But that’s not enough. Recently been embarking on a new quest. Where can you and the family go within a day's drive of the city? Staying overnight can be a struggle especially with children, so we’ll be focusing on only those places within two to three hours of Houston, though you can turn most of these into a weekend camping trip.

First up: Huntsville State Park.

Huntsville State Park is a great getaway for the day or for an entire weekend. One day this spring, I packed my daughter and a lunch on a whim and we drove up to Huntsville. An hour-and-a-half north of the inner loop, the state park is over 2,000 acres of trails, campsites and lakes.

One of the trails, the Triple C, is 8.5 miles long and takes over four hours to hike. We are novice hikers, and she’s a small child who definitely can’t walk for four hours, so we opted for hiking a group of three trails that all intersect toward the park entrance: the Dogwood, Prairie Branch Loop, and part of the Chinquapin (you can hike this trail by itself for three hours).

We ate lunch at a picnic table at Lake Raven, where you can fish, swim or kayak. For us city folk, the best part of Huntsville is that it is so busy all the time you’re less likely to run into any scary wildlife. The trail map said to watch out for alligators, so we were obviously on guard, but we didn’t see one.

Now, for those of you that are used to hiking and enjoy seeing coyotes, snakes, and alligators, this might actually be a turn off. Another downside of such a busy park is that I just felt like the city had relocated 60 miles north into a wooded area.

We left our house at 11 am, got to Huntsville at about 12:30 pm, ate lunch by the river and hiked until about 3 pm, and were back home before 5 pm. A great day away from the hustle and bustle of the city for the cost of gas and a $5 park entrance fee.  

We’ll be headed back this fall to camp for the weekend.

Local wildlife still faces challenges in Galveston Bay. Photo by Andrew Hancock

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Lovers of Galveston Bay know that the ecosystem has been beset by challenges, after being ravaged by Hurricane Harvey and the Deepwater Horizon spill, and last year, receiving a C grade for its overall wellness.

Even more challenging, Galveston Bay has lost more than 35,000 acres of intertidal wetlands since the 1950s.

But now, hope floats, with the news that the Galveston Bay Foundation has received a $2.3 million award to continue to restore and create marsh habitat in the Dollar Bay/Moses Lake complex in Galveston Bay. The gift comes courtesy of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), with funding through the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a funding source created from Deepwater Horizon oil spill penalties.

The area has already seen restoration work in the same area, including a 1,600-foot section of rock breakwater structures constructed in 2002, a 2,400-foot section constructed in 2012, and 1.3-mile section completed in 2018. Galveston Bay Foundation volunteers have planted smooth cordgrass to reestablish fringing marsh and will continue to do so in this next phase, according to the foundation.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about the breakwaters that will be constructed.

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